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Campanella Musica


Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
Trois Danses pour Hautbois, Harpe, Quintette Solo et Orchestre à Cordes (1970) [18:43] Witold LUTOSŁAWSKI (1913-1994)
Double Concerto for Oboe, Harp and Chamber Orchestra [19:17]
Jacques IBERT (1890–1962)
Symphonie Concertante pour Hautbois et Orchestre à Cordes [27:06]
Margit-Anna Süss (harp); Hansjörg Schellenberger (oboe)
Franz Liszt-Kammerorkester Budapest/Zoltán Peskó
rec. Italienisches Kultuurinstituut Budapest, April 1996



Experience Classicsonline

The Campanella Musica label sets a fine standard of presentation with their releases. It rejects the usual plastic jewel cases for nicely made and sturdy card gatefolds in an approach which reminds one of those uniquely distinctive Winter & Winter publications. The only problem with my copy was a couple of very rusty staples in the booklet.

The present disc presents an interesting and attractive programme of concerto, or concerto-like works for oboe and strings in the case of the Ibert, and with the inclusion of harp for the other two works.

Frank Martin’s Trois Danses was, as with all of the works on this disc, commissioned by Paul Sacher, and with the oboist Heinz Holliger in mind as soloist. It also has in common with Ibert’s Symphonie Concertante a division of the strings into a solo quintet and a ripieno group in the ‘concerto grosso’ tradition. The booklet notes go into some detail with regard to Martin’s sources and solutions to the problem of writing ‘pure music’, and the composer’s reasons for employing certain rhythmic devices derived from flamenco, among other things. Martin’s sophisticated but approachable idiom remains uncompromised by the application of folkmusic-sourced material however, and there is much here to remind one of the seriousness of Martin’s series of ‘Ballades’. This is especially true of the funereal slow central movement, but both outer movements also possess that sinuous chromaticism for which I often find myself returning to this composer. Even with movement titles like ‘Rumba’, this is never allowed to become superficial dance music.

Witold Lutosławski’s Double Concerto is something of a harder nut to crack than the Trois Danses. While maintaining a formal structure, the work is characteristic of the composer’s pieces for this period, in being a combination of aleatoric freedoms and strictly composed and notated music. The aleatoric moments often occur as rhythmically unstable fields of sound, united in tonality with the through-composed sections, but providing maximum contrast within the structural integrity of the music. Energetic impulses in the opening movement jettison us into the dark chasm of the second – a deep but remarkable trough in this reverse-arch form. Lutosławski broadens his sound palette with the addition of subtly used percussion, creating some magical effects against the harp. The third movement is a ‘series of marches’ in a truly anarchic and anti-heroic setting in which rhythmic regularity is broken by the elegant harp and an unruly oboe. There is space for a cadenza duet between the two soloists, who have the freedom to choose the duration of this section themselves. With some fascinating interactions and, to my ears, perfectly proportioned selections within the ‘free’ parts of the score, this is a recording and performance which should draw you back in a search for the key to the work’s secrets.

Lutosławski’s inscrutable humanism sits surprisingly well next to Jacques Ibert’s Gallic urbanity. As previously mentioned, Ibert harks back to the Baroque in having string soloists whose function connects the tutti orchestra with the soloist, allowing both spatial and textural flexibility. The punishing Allegro con moto does expose one or two weaker moments in the otherwise excellent Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, but it would be a tough challenge to expect perfection from this tonal but relentlessly modern idiom. The second movement is a moving Adagio ma non troppo, which never allows the energy of the work to lapse into sentimental romanticism. The final Allegro brillante very much lives up to its marking, but including some of that stirring counterpoint which seems a feature of music from this period.

This fascinating trilogy of concertos is served by an excellent recording in an attractively resonant acoustic. None of these works are particularly staples of the catalogue, and I’m afraid I have no comparisons to offer, though the Lutosławski and Ibert do appear elsewhere. The soloists on this recording are both to be congratulated on creating true music from the demanding roles given to them by these masters of the last century. While oboe sound can be a sensitive topic, I much appreciate Hansjörg Schellenberger’s round and limpid tone, as well as his impeccable intonation. This is a disc to treasure.

Dominy Clements



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